Somewhere in my collection of old photos is a shot of me, multi-tasking in a really weird way. I'm busy getting dressed, so in actual fact I'm 'half-dressed' or 'half-naked'...depending on whether you're a glass half full or half empty kind of gal....and I'm loading the washing machine with dirty laundry, while brushing my teeth and for some reason I'm standing in the empty washing basket. No idea why, I just am.
I've been multi-tasking for years, and praising myself for it. Silently patting myself on the back every time I think "Wow...I'm managing to do so much today...and all at once!" Society doesn't help either because everyone talks about how women are such great multi-taskers and that if you're not, well...are we as women supposed to feel like a failure?? Of course, with all the multitude of things going on in my day by the evening I'm exhausted, and I still have a pile of things to do and I really don't feel like I've achieved anything. I just feel tired, slightly fuzzy in the head from having to think about several things at once while doing five other things at the same time, and sometimes a little grumpy at my husband who is obviously very happy....engaged in a single solitary task, with plenty of focus and not a care in the world!
See...nothing is really getting done, and what is happening is that I'm getting frustrated because the mess seems bigger than it actually is, it seems never ending and by chopping and changing between tasks I'm not really achieving anything.
So this is my new conclusion. Multi-tasking is BAD for you. How can you possibly focus properly on one task when you are thinking about several others, or thinking about what you should be doing next? How can you do something properly if you are doing two other things at the same time? Instead of having one job done you will have three completed, but they will be three 'half-arse' jobs instead of a one really well finished task. How can you enjoy sitting down to a well deserved cup of tea and that magazine you have been waiting weeks to find a 'spare moment' to read if you are thinking about the pile of laundry that needs to be folded? You're certainly not going to enjoy the magazine because you'll be feeling guilty the whole time that you should be tackling that washing.
I've been reading a book called "What Would Audrey Do?" by Pamela Keogh on Audrey Hepburn, and naturally it looks at how stylish Audrey was and what she would do in certain situations. Her take on multi-tasking was simple. Don't. Apparently she always focused on what she was doing at the time before moving on to the next thing, which helped her accomplish a lot more.
"When she reads she reads; when she fits she fits; when she talks clothes she talks clothes; when she sits under a drier she simply sits and dries." - Cosmopolitan
"She is the only actress I've ever had who doesn't gab, read, knit, wriggle, pick her teeth or eat a lettuce and tomato sandwich," - her hairdresser
So as a further step to simplify my life I am putting a halt to multi-tasking, and although I could NEVER be like Audrey, (she is just on another level of perfection all together) it is nice to aspire to try and think like Audrey and be more focused and dedicated to every single task, rather than doing things by halves and feeling like I'm rushing through everything. It gets back to enjoying the journey rather than always reaching out to the outcome. I'm finding I've been practising this single-minded focus while I have been sewing, although I will have to stop on semi-regular occasions when various children ask me to get them drinks or snacks or when I have to break up an argument (!)...but it is a starting point and has made me realise it can be done. I have also noted that I feel a lot more satisfied with the results and have a real sense of achievement when I have completed something to the best of my ability.
Yes, I agree with the picture above...multi-tasking IS highly overrated and it's time we learnt to stop!
Do you think you could stop multi-tasking? Even as a busy mum?